Updated: Aug 5, 2020
The plie may be the most important foundational movement in dance. It’s the beginning and end of all your jumps, turns and direction changes. You name it, it probably involves a plie of some type. Improper plie technique can result in compensations at the knees, hips, and all the way up to your spine. Mastering the plie is crucial to not only improving your performance, but for lowering your risk of injury.
In this post, I'm laying out my top 5 favorite exercises to improve your plie:
Let’s start with the basics. A huge component of performing your plie with proper technique is making sure you maintain the arch in your foot and don’t pronate. As soon as the arch collapses, the knees tip inward, and you lose the turn out from your hip. Doming will teach you exactly how to prevent this:
2. Dorsiflexion mobilization with band
A plie involves the ankle moving into, what we call, dorsiflexion. Dancers who lack dorsiflexion mobility compensate by pronating the feet, which you now know causes problems in the knee and hip as well. Here’s how you can perform an easy self mobilization to help you get a little deeper into your plie:
Place a mobilization band or yoga strap across the front of the ankle, just below the 2 bones on the inside and outside.
Prop foot on a small step and be sure there is a little tension on the band. Lunge forward.
Sets/Reps: hold 5 seconds, 10x
**It's important to note, you probably won't feel much going on here but I promise it is! Be sure to test your plie before and after the exercise to see the difference!
3. Soleus stretch
There are 2 main muscles in your calf- the gastrocnemius and the soleus. When you plie, it lengthens these muscles, and when you releve, it shortens them. Therefore, any restriction here will affect range of motion during your plie. (Most dancers have some restriction in these muscles because of the amount of time spent in releve, with the muscles shortened).
Although it’s important to stretch BOTH muscles, I am specifically highlighting soleus stretching because it replicates the bent knee position needed for plie. It also happens to be a muscle that dancers don’t typically stretch.
Here’s how you do it:
Stand in a staggered stance with both toes facing forwards.
Bend BOTH knees, while keeping the back heal on the ground. You should feel a pull close to the ankle in the back leg.
Sets/Reps: 10x without holding, then 3 x 30 seconds
4. Eccentric heel raises
Time for some strengthening! Building strength in the ankle dorsiflexors and plantar flexors will help you gain control over your plie position. Eccentric strength exercises create more tension in the muscle and are a great way to get more bang for your buck. Try this exercise:
5. Foam roller WB External rotation
All of the previous exercises have focused on the feet and ankles, but we can’t forget about also building support from the top down. Being able to find and activate your turnout muscles in a weight bearing position will have a huge impact on your plie technique. A lot of turnout exercises are in a non-weight bearing position (clams, fire hydrants, etc.), which isn’t wrong, but also isn’t as functional. So here’s one of my fav’s in a weight bearing position:
Want to learn more??
Check out my virtual workshop: Master Your Plie
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